Reflex sympathetic dystrophy

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is a serious, but uncommon condition.   

A widow, 83 years old Mrs. G. lived alone.  There were, she told me, only two things left of importance in her life – she taught craft and could drive her car.

One day, she developed pain, tingling, and reduced ability to move her fingers when teaching craft. Unresponsive to standard anti-inflammatory drugs and pain-killers, her orthopedic surgeon recommended surgery to “free-up” the nerve supplying her forearm – a so-called “ulnar nerve disentrapment”.  This is where the nerve passes over the medial epicondyle at the elbow – better known as the “funny bone”. (See picture) The aim was to take pressure off the nerve that would hopefully stop her pain and improve or restore her hand movement.
Unfortunately, although the operation was successful, the pain and disability increased. She was now suffering from “reflex sympathetic dystrophy”, a relatively common complication of this type of operation. However,  the pain had become constant and severe, making  driving impossible. She became severely depressed.

When I first visited her, her hand had been unusable and agonisingly painful for 12 months. Finger movement was impossible, and poor blood circulation and subsequent lack of oxygen caused the skin on the whole of her hand and forearm to become deep blue in colour and icy cold.

Three physiotherapy sessions a week had no effect on her condition, nor did the medication open up the blood vessels in her hand as hoped. Clearly, the deep blue – almost black – hand and forearm suggested the medication was not working. Her blood pressure was dangerously low.

Coincidentally, a week or so earlier, I had used the wheatgrass extract effectively on a 2 year old girl whose hands had suddenly turned very cold due to a condition called Raynaud’s disease. Both her hands and feet were intermittently turning icy cold and blue. After applying a small amount of  wheatgrass extract to one cold hand, within minutes blood circulation returned returning warmth to both hands and feet. I thought perhaps it might help restore Mrs. G’s circulation as well, so I put the proposition to her.

“If there is the slightest chance it might work, I would willingly try it.” she replied.

So, I squeezed a matchhead-sized blob of cream on to a toothpick (from a jar on the table) then very carefully applied it in a thin line to the back of her dark blue hand.

To my amazement, as I ran the toothpick over her skin, the thin line instantly blanched then began to broaden. Over the next minute or two, the entire dark-coloured hand and forearm turned white – then pink. 

Her blood circulation to the aread had clearly returned. After about three minutes, both her hands turned the same colour, so there had to be some connection to the other side of her body.

But that was not all. A few minutes later, she regained full sensation in the hand and the shooting pains that made her life such a misery were no longer. Also, she was now able to move her “paralysed” fingers! About ten minutes later, she did the impossible and picked up a light plastic cylinder off the table.

“Doctor. This is a miracle!” she cried. “I haven’t moved my fingers for a year and I have no pain now.”

I had to agree with her. I had never seen such an amazing “healing” response in my entire medical career.

The sceptics may scream, “Placebo! ”, but I won’t accept that. After being a doctor for 20 years I had never witnessed or heard of a “healing” phenomenon – anywhere.

Follow up

Two days later I dropped in to see how Mrs. G. was getting along.

Expecting a smiling face, she was, instead, clearly unhappy. After I left, her symptoms were only relieved for two or three hours, after which her pain returned more severely. Naturally, she was not prepared to try the cream again, but she did allow me to apply a little cream over the ulnar nerve at the elbow. This brought almost immediate relief of pain in her forearm and hand and an increased range of movement at the elbow.

In some way, the wheatgrass extract had relaxed the muscles moving the joint. However, this only lasted a minute or so, then the elbow stiffened up again. Nonetheless, there clearly were some dramatic changes affecting her blood circulation and nervous systems that, at the time, were beyond explanation. 

Today, I have a very different view as to how this “miracle” (which it wasn’t), most likely occurred.

Even though Mrs. G. refused further use of wheatgrass extract, there had clearly been marked physiological changes that, for some time, stopped her pain and restored blood supply and movement to her forearm and hand.  

Rebuff from above

Subsequently, I arranged a meeting with Mrs. G.’s cardiologist who specialised in the treatment of RSD. At first he seemed interested in my observations, but was unable to explain how the “recovery” might have occurred.

Perhaps he was saying, “I’m not interested. It’s herbal.”

Dr. Chris Reynolds.